Sunday, October 16, 2005

New chain, new dog?

You may remember some time ago the bureaucratic struggles I had attaining my highly prized “Legitimaţie de Şedere” (try clicking December 2004 in that little list to the right and scrolling down). You may then imagine my lack of elation on being told that the crappy little book thing I had been issued with was being phased out and replaced with a jazzy new card.

Initially we were told that this change would happen sometime early in the year, but it kept getting put back, until finally in August the police rang and said we’d have to get it by the end of the month. Come the end of August and we call and see if it’s really necessary to do it then since it’s a holiday month and hard to organise oneselves and also we were thinking of moving and would we need a new card if we did etc etc. The police replied that in fact nobody on their list (of foreigners resident in Miercurea Ciuc) had actually bothered to do it yet, so maybe we could do it in September.

So, come the end of September, we remembered this, and had by now decided we wouldn’t be moving this year, so called to find out what we needed to do. Just show up with the old one, my passport, a receipt for a further 4 million Lei (about €120, the bloody chancers), and they would do the rest. They even allowed me to come at 8am even though the official office hours didn’t start to 9, since I was teaching that week and couldn’t possibly come at the official time. In addition to this new spirit of helpfulness, they have moved the office for dealing with foreigners round the other side of the police station and done radical things like put a coffee machine in the waiting area. The first time we saw this shockingly civilised arrangement Erika taught me the Hungarian expression which translates as “New chain, same dog”, but it seems maybe that not only has the chain been changed but also that a newer friendlier dog has been purchased too.

So, I showed up on the appointed day at 8am, and handed over my receipt, my little green book, my passport. In return they handed me two pieces of paper to fill out - some kind of application form with personal details, and another form which I had to sign to say that it was OK for them to send my personal information to Germany. So, this was possibly the reason for at least part of this insanely high 4 million Lei fee. Despite requiring this new card and despite requiring it for every foreigner in the country, the government hadn’t actually got around to buying a machine to make them. So everyone’s details are sent to Germany, where they make the cards and send them back. You’d think they could invest in their own machine. I have no idea how many foreigners there are residing in Romania but I’m going to hazard a guess at upwards of 200,000, which number, I’d say, would justify the expense involved in getting a machine. Somewhere in Germany there’s a businessman rubbing his hands in glee as he looks at this guaranteed source of income.

Anyway, I signed the form, and they took me next door to have my picture taken. And that was that. I was in and out in less than 15 minutes. On my way home I called Erika to inform her of this fact and her first words were “What went wrong? What else do they need?” being completely incapable of imagining that the process could actually have been over in less than an hour and in only one visit. So, in a few short weeks (in theory) I should have my new fancy laminated card residence permit, which presumably is so ultra modern that it can’t even be produced east of the Rhine – I have no idea what features it could possibly have that make it so hi-tech, but there you are (they didn’t take my fingerprints or a swab of DNA from under my foreskin or anything like that, so it’s not one of these biometric things that the US is pushing for in everyone’s passports). Perhaps some foreigner in another part of Romania who already has one can let me know what exactly it is I have to look forward to.

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